COLUMBUS -- Gov. John Kasich recounted his visit to New York City in the days following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Before an audience near the Statehouse Wednesday, the 12-year anniversary of the "attack on our souls," the governor described the firefighters and emergency responders who carried microphones on long poles, "hoping and praying that they would find life."
He remembered the hastily drawn pictures schoolchildren placed on fencing surrounding the World Trade Center rubble.
And he told about the messages written by others in the thick dust that covered the windows and walls of nearby buildings that remained.
"I've never seen anything like it," Kasich said.
The governor spoke during a midday service in the chambers of the Columbus City Council, honoring the nearly 3,000 people who died in New York and Washington, D.C., and in a rural Pennsylvania field when Islamic terrorists downed hijacked airliners as part of a coordinated attack. Among the fallen were hundreds of firefighters and emergency responders.
Mayor Michael Coleman said he was in a meeting with business leaders at the time but told attendees to go home with their families as city police and emergency responders helped evacuate downtown buildings.
"That day changed the nation," Coleman said. " ... We should not ever take for granted our freedoms. We should not ever take for granted our security and we should never take for granted our first responders, who are there each and every time for all of us."
Brigadier Gen. John C. Harris Jr., assistant adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard, urged Ohioans to mourn the lost but also celebrate the "heroic feats of countless people that occurred on that day."
"You see, for a very brief sliver of time, our nation donned a pair of corrective lenses that helped us see through the haze of our differences and helped us focus on what was really important to this nation, helped us zoom in ... on what really mattered," he said, adding later, "We didn't perish on that day. We didn't become weaker... we became stronger."
Kasich used the occasion to call for greater political unity.
"We're a great country," he said. "We face many challenges. We're too divided. ... We have to unite -- Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives -- we have to unite to build a stronger America."
He added, "Today we celebrate America. We mourn with those who lost, but we're strong for it because we've picked ourselves up and moved forward."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.